How To Cite a Blog Post Properly in your List of References

A couple of years ago, a blog post of mine appeared in the List of References of a paper. Unfortunately, the form in which it was cited was this:

#16 Zivkovic B. Clock tutorial #6: To entrain or not to entrain, that is the question. (2005); Available at:

As you can see, it is far from specific. The actual URL of the post is When I reposted it here I added on the bottom what I thought would be the Proper Reference to this post:
Zivkovic, BD (2005/2006) Clock Tutorial #6: To Entrain Or Not To Entrain, That Is The Question. A Blog Around The Clock,

I even contacted the authors about this, but nothing was done to fix it.

As that post was for a long time the only example of a cited blog-post, it was kinda OK (except for me alone). But now that the practice is spreading, some uniformity is neccessary and authors/editors need to be informed about it. Now, The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers has added the official rules for citing blog posts (via Medgadget):

Sample Citation and Introduction to Citing Blogs
Citation Rules with Examples for Blogs
Examples of Citations to Blogs

Bookmark those and remember to use them!

Update: Now that I took a second look and removed my perceptual blind-spots, prompted by a commenter, I see that they are actully not including correct permalinks in their references. I will contact them and you should, too.

More like this

Have you read those guidelines? They specify a citation in the format you're complaining about. Namely, lacking a permalink and, amusingly, calling the content type "blog on the internet"

That they could come out with such clueless recommendations at this late stage in things is just astounding. Someone needs to smack those editors upside the head with a trout.

Furthermore, the idea of listing the location of publication and the publisher of a blog is ludicrous. Some clueless hack decided to imitate as closely as possible the format for citing a book, for no apparent reason. The publisher and location could help you track down an obscure book, but the location couldn't possibly help locate a blog and the publisher isn't likely to help either.

They didn't even do a principled job of the imitation: in the example given, I would say is the publisher of the blog, but they list the author of the blog again as publisher.

The whole thing is offensive. It's better to have no standard than a bad standard. After all, in the absence of other standards the default (among sensible people) is to provide enough information that the reader could easily track down precisely what is being cited. That means including permalinks, for example.

The one subtlety is whether blogs are like books or whether blog entries are like articles. In the former case, the bibliography should refer to the entire blog, and specific permalinks will occur inline in the text, like chapter or page number references for books. In the latter case, each blog entry will have a separate bibliographic entry. My guess is that these people are including stupid information (like location of publication) because they conceive of blogs as being like books, and this is why the bibliography does not contain permalinks.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 14 Oct 2007 #permalink

I think you are onto something. I did not think about books at all. I guess that humanities and social science people are more likely to think about it as they cite books more often than natural scientists who tend to focus on individual papers in peer-reviewed journals.

The whole thing is just silly.

A journal(a periodical) comes out with new articles, periodically. Books, on the other hand, are a single, one-time, long-format published work. If you publish 100% of your content at one time, instead of little pieces periodically, you're not blogging.

You could put email roughly in the same category as a letter(personal communication), and you could put a blog roughly in the same category as a journal, but it's ridiculous to even try to make the comparison, because unlike any traditional printed publication, web pages can change. Instead of being distributed as multiple copies which are permanent once printed, only one copy of a given web page(referenced by a specific URL) exists at any given time, it can change over time, and you don't have to give your page a new URL if you want to correct a spelling mistake so there's no way to cite the earlier version of a page(unless it makes it into OTOH, there is a way to cite the previous version of a wiki, a major distinction the citation guidelines fail to acknowledge.

Those guidelines are just bad. Ridiculously bad. NLM, you FAIL.

I doubt that blog posts should ever be cited in a serious work of science. It's even grayer than gray literature.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 15 Oct 2007 #permalink


A blog post on a scientific matter by a credentialed expert in that discipline is not gray literature. If a blog post contributed to a scientists' doing an experiment or changing a protocol they should give credit where it is due.

And this is not just about citing for scientific papers, the NLM sets standards for many universities. This is the format the English 102 students have to get perfect on their papers to get a good grade.

Another thing one should add when using websites as references, is the last day it was accessed. Website can change in content. So, I add to the end of the reference:
Last accessed on: October 15, 2007

Here's an example to make the book vs. journal distinction clearer:

Suppose you cite Einstein's diary (this is hypothetical - I've got no idea whether he kept one). The bibliography would have a single reference to the entire diary, and in the text you would specify which entry you were talking about. Now suppose you cite Hawking's diary. He may still be adding daily entries to it, but that doesn't mean you would put each entry individually in your bibliography. You would cite it exactly the same way as Einstein's, except that you might add a note that it was a work in progress.

Now what's a blog? Some blogs are basically world-readable diaries, and it is not so unreasonable to cite them in the same way as if they were handwritten diaries. Some blogs are basically single-author scientific journals, and it is reasonable to cite individual entries as if they were journal articles. There is no way to produce a single standard that fits every blog.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 15 Oct 2007 #permalink

"There is no way to produce a single standard that fits every blog."
That's the truth of it--at least for the foreseeable future. Some blogs you can cite almost like an article in a periodical. Some are basically, uh, uncitable.

And citing a blog is still a risky prospect anyway,in both science and humanities, even if there was a standard for it. I wasn't allowed to cite any blogs in recent work I did for an M.A.--they are not, in general, considered to be a reliable source of info. A lot of people still think Matt Drudge or Wiki-something when they hear "blog."

I wasn't allowed to cite any blogs in recent work I did for an M.A.

You weren't allowed to cite them for any reason? My feeling is that they are in the same general class as "personal communication". In order words, it is reasonable (and mandatory) to cite them as sources for original ideas or perhaps unpublished work. However, they aren't an authoritative source for factual information, on the grounds that they aren't peer reviewed, may be changed without notice, and aren't even guaranteed to be accessible in the future.

This is essentially the distinction between citing to award credit vs. citing to derive authority from the cited source.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 15 Oct 2007 #permalink

"This is essentially the distinction between citing to award credit vs. citing to derive authority from the cited source."

Yep. Blogs have not yet achieved the latter status. (I mean they have, kind of, but....)

Well said Anonymous. I think restricting what can be cited, for any reason, is short sighted. If it works and is important in whatever one is writing it needs to be cited. Blog post are going to become more and more common, and it is a form of communication that we as a species are just developing. Ignoring the huge amount of good on the blog because one does not want to separate the shit from the honey is just lazy. Of course blogs are not peer reviewed and should never replace peer reviewed data but it is just a reliable (or can be) as most books or magazine articles since most of them are not peer reviewed.

"Of course blogs are not peer reviewed and should never replace peer reviewed data but it is just a reliable (or can be) as most books or magazine articles since most of them are not peer reviewed."


True, but Once Upon a Time, books and magazine articles were edited by editors and fact-checked by fact checkers. The publishing industry now pretends that this was never the case (c.f. James Frey), but it was--Once Upon a Time...

Great article! I wanted to suggest to you a service that I am the Community Manager for, we're a site called ( we offer an app for bloggers that helps a lot with citation.

Here is a blurb from our about us page to give you an idea of what we do:

" gives end users a simple and visually compelling way to repost content, instantly boosting the impact of blog posts, e-mail, websites, and social networks. The visual clips and formatted quotes generated by drive a 5x greater click-through to the original publisher than content distributed via traditional links."

I'd love for you to check it out and let me know what you think!


wow.. finaly.. somebody clear my confusion about this stuff. Working on my research right now, need this badly. Thanks alot for article and discussion